Jonesborough, ISC sign sale agreement

Sue Guinn Legg • Jul 10, 2012 at 9:51 PM

The town of Jonesborough and the International Storytelling Center organization inked the deal early Tuesday on their agreement for the town to purchase the storytelling center in downtown Jonesborough from the ISC.

Jonesborough Mayor Kelly Wolfe said Tuesday afternoon the new contract was immediately forwarded to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Rural Development for approval of a $1 million “short sale” price that will satisfy Rural Development’s $1.3 million lien on the property and avoid a foreclosure sale.

According to Wolfe, the purchase contract was signed according to terms presented to the town’s Board of Mayor Aldermen Monday evening with only some minor tweaking of the legal language.

Wolfe said the town will work with Rural Development over the next week to finalize a financing agreement through which Rural Development will add the $1 million the town needs to buy the building to the town’s existing application for $2.3 million in funding from Rural Development for construction of the new Jonesborough Senior Center.

Over the next couple of weeks, Wolfe said the town will also work with ISC to finalize a $45,000 annual lease agreement that will allow ISC to continue using the storytelling building and cover the town’s $45,000 yearly debt service to Rural Development for its purchase.

“Rural Development should have the funds obligated to us by the end of next week,” Wolfe said. A closing date for the sale is expected to be scheduled sometime before the end the September.

The lease agreement will exclude ISC from use of the storytelling center gift shop, which the town plans to use for visitors center services in the downtown district and for an office to coordinate its participation in the Tennessee Main Street program.

While Wolfe has described the sale, lease and financing agreements as a deal that will benefit all parties involved, the mayor said Monday purchasing the building was not the town’s original intent.

In a clarification of an earlier statement he made to the Johnson City Press, Wolfe said he had been working with the ISC and with Rural Development since before the ISC filed bankruptcy late in 2010 to facilitate a means through which the ISC could meet its debt obligation to Rural Development and retain ownership of the building.

Wolfe said work on the agreement for the town to purchase the building did not begin until about a week before ISC announced it was unable to raise the sufficient funds to retain the building.

Because the ISC only recently emerged from bankruptcy, the lease agreement will include a stipulation that requires it to provide $90,000 in “up-front money” that will be placed in an escrow account to meet the ISC’s lease payments for two years in the event it experiences any future financial difficulties that prevent it from meeting the payments.

As mayor, Wolfe said he did not vote on three resolutions needed to finalize the agreements approved by the BMA on Monday because the town charter only allows the mayor to vote when there is a tie vote among the aldermen.

The three resolutions, which allowed the town to request an expansion of its debt obligation to Rural Development and authorized Wolfe and Town Attorney Jim Wheeler to finalize the sale and lease agreements, were approved in single 3-0 vote with Vice Mayor Terry Countermine and Aldermen Chuck Vest and Mary Gearhart voting in favor and Alderman Jerome Fitzgerald absent.

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